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Parents' Acceptance May Help Protect Gay Teens

TUESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Positive family attitudes and behaviors towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens reduce their risk of depression, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts when they become young adults, a new study finds.

The study authors also found that those adolescents with highly accepting families have much higher levels of self-esteem and social support when they're young adults.

The study included 245 white and Hispanic LGBT young adults, aged 21 to 25, in California who were open about their sexual orientation to at least one parent or caregiver during adolescence.

Examples of positive parental and caregiver support include supporting their gender expression or advocating for their children when they are mistreated because of their LGBT identity.

"At a time when the media and families are becoming acutely aware of the risk that many LGBT youth experience, our findings that family acceptance protects against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, depression and substance abuse offer a gateway to hope for LGBT youth and families that struggle with how to balance deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children," study author Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, said in a university news release.

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.

The findings provide "the strongest evidence to date that acceptance and support from parents and caregivers promote well-being among LGBT youth and help protect them from depression and suicidal behavior," Ann P. Haas, director of prevention projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said in the news release.

"These findings open the door to a whole new focus on how families can be helped to more fully engage in the kind of behaviors that reduce suicide risk in LGBT adolescents and young adults," Haas added.

More information

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has more about gay, lesbian and bisexual adolescents.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: San Francisco State University, news release, Dec. 6, 2010

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